Poor Old Bench

The bench press probably more than any other exercise has a large following of promoters and detractors. Due to it’s high profile it comes under a lot of attention some of it warranted some of it not so warranted. When you have such a reputation that goes before declaring you simultaneously as the greatest chest developer, the mortal enemy of rotator cuffs, the best upper body strength builder, the optimum of non-functional and so on it’s not surprising that a lot of people have developed a lot of opinions on you.

As with any convention or reputation these assertions are not pulled from thin air and have a smattering of truth behind the thick veil of hyperbole. The crys of lack of transfer to sport are in my opinion ludicrous once you accept that the best way to develop maximal strength and power is the use of free weights the term “sports specific” becomes a complete and utter farce. Nothing you do when lifting a barbell relates to your sport other than the physical quality you are developing and the joints and muscles you are developing it. I don’t know in what bizzaro land the military press offers you better transfer to sport movements but it is not a planet in which I am situated.

The bench press offers the lifter the most possible potential for loading the upper body pressing muscles as a unit and as such it offers one of the best ways to develop maximal pressing strength in the upperbody something I would of thought to be of interest to some sports. It is telling that the sports where the greatest expression of upperbody power (throwing) rely heavily on the bench press to develop the horse power necessary to perform at the highest level of their sport.

The bench press and the shoulder aren’t the best of buddies it has to be said but not to the extent that some people might have you believe. Modifications can be made to the bench press that minimise elbow travel and allow for the scapula to move normally whilst simultaneously allowing for more weight to be used. You are but a google away from learning how to perform and arched bench press, this may not negate injury potential 100% but it will certainly reduce it to some degree. When you consider the relatively low volume required for big improvements in strength it the perceived risk doesn’t seem to weigh up in my head.

Given the benefits that bench press can bring to upperbody strength and power if you are involved in a sport where these qualities are at a premium I don’t see why you would consider omitting it from a programme. Conversely it is by no means a staple that must be used it can be omitted with little thought when the qualities it develops are not of great importance.